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“Tourbillon des sentiments” in Essen

2012. június 20. szerda

Tourbillon des sentiments – a whirlwind of feelings is the title of the program with which Philippe Jaroussky and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, accompanied by Ensemble Artaserse, are on tour this June, and which I have been lucky to hear in Essen a bit more than a week ago. It consists of duets, solos and instrumental pieces from the 17th century Italy. The title fits the program very well, as there are few periods in music history when composers aimed more eagerly for direct emotional impact of words and music than in early baroque. And we got everything: love and death, merry dance-rhythms and tear-jerking lamentos, innocent or not so innocent teasing and tender devotion.

The Alfried Krupp Saal of Essen Philharmonie, where the concert took place, is a quite big, modern concert hall with a capacity of 1900 – this may not sound like an ideal venue for a chamber ensemble, but the acoustics were really great. The design is a bit utilitarian for my taste, our Palace of Arts in Budapest feels much more cosy, but the half circle of big candles behind the musicians’ back (the concert was part of a series called “Alte Musik bei Kerzenschein”) managed to create some illusion of intimacy.

The program was arranged so that the pieces followed each other without pause, one flowing seamlessly into the next one. I like this concept (though sometimes it’s hard not to clap), as nothing breaks the magic of music and the succession of the pieces can be quite dramatic in itself. (For the complete program see the end of this post.)

The opening sinfonia and duet didn’t impress me too much, they were just nice warm-up pieces. Then came the comic scene from Cavalli’s La Calisto: Linfea, the chaste follower of goddess Diana, feeling her sell-by date coming close, confesses to herself that she doesn’t want to die without having a husband. A young satyr hears her and volunteers but gets rejected. They played it very funny, I had the impression that this Satirino, though half goat, was actually a rather sweet little creature (fine and soft hairs, smooth and rosy cheek, etc.), and that Linfea almost gave in to so much cuteness (or perhaps just considered giving him a motherly embrace?), only changing her mind in the last moment. There had been much curiosity about how he would deliver such sensitive words as “ancor crescente e picciola porto la coda tenera”, so I might as well tell you: with that “puppy eyes” expression on his face that would melt even rocks.

No success with Linfea though, so we can go on to the next piece, Ecuba’s lament, in which the ill-fated queen mourns the fall of Troy and the death of her husband and sons. Here Marie-Nicole Lemieux showed her more serious side, and also her incredible low notes, creating a deeply tragic atmosphere. And this was only the first in a row of pieces that gave me goosebumps that day. Quite another facet of her was revealed later, in Francesca Caccini’s lively canzonetta. She lectured us about the true essence of love — it’s all burning and pain and fear, not sweet at all, and it’s better to fly from it — and did it with so much self-assured femininity that one could be certain: more sighs were spent for her than by her in this game.

At an event like this, the attention of the audience naturally turns towards the singers, and we easily forget about the istrumentalists who provide a  stable background for them. In case of Ensemble Artaserese, we had some really fine musicians sitting there. I especially admire the first violinist, Alessandro Tampieri, whose soulful and virtuosic rendition of a Pandolfi sonata was a great moment of the program. He had lost his curls, but don’t let yourselves be misled by the sight, a few seconds of his playing is enough to convince you it is the same man!

The first half ended with a duet from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, namely the scene of Valetto and Damigella, the very young, inexperienced page and the presumably slightly older, more sophisticated maid. I think many people will agree with me that the scene is tailor-made for this pair — and, accordingly, we got fine singing and a lot of acting. I giggled a bit already when at the words “perderai tosto il cervello” (you’ll swiftly lose your mind) Marie-Nicole playfully tickled the top of Philippe’s head (and she has the height to do it easily!), but at the end we all laughed loud: she was about to leave and signed for him to follow, then seeing he is still a bit uncertain about what to do, grabbed his hand and pulled him with herself. No chance for resistance. At the door he turned back and waved good-bye to the audience with a smile.

My very favourite piece was the second one of the second half, the lamento Sul Rodano severo by Barbara Strozzi. I didn’t know it before, so I was totally unprepared for the shock. This cantata tells the story of a young man, Henri de Cinq-Mars, who was a protégé of Cardinal Richelieu, and was sent to the court of Louis XIII as a pawn in his power games. He soon became a favourite of the king, and made a quick career, then apparently aimed for too much, turned against the cardinal, and in the end got executed for conspiracy. The king, unmoved by his fate, said only: “I would like to see the grimace he is now making on that scaffold.” Now, that’s where our cantata begins.

The beginning — already impressive

First we hear a narrator telling about the unfortunate body of the youth lying by the banks of the Rhone. They dramatized the piece, so this was sung by Lemieux, who begun in a subdued voice, not as an objective bystander but as someone who is touched and shaked by the events — she caught the attention of the audience at once and created an atmosphere full of tension. Then the spirit of the boy rises, finds the king and starts, well, to lament, that’s the point of a lamento after all — that was Jaroussky’s part. First he blames the king for condemning him too hastily, then claims his fall was caused by  enemies made jealous by the king’s favours. “I accuse my king of one fault only: loving me too much.” The music for all this is the most dramatic kind one can imagine: expressive declamation — all cries and sobs and crazy jumps — alternating with heart-wrenching arioso moments, including a wonderful passacaglia, which is probably the most moving part of the piece. Here the text explore the thought “whenever you showed kindness towards me, you made me a target of envy and thus pushed me one step closer to my death”, over a hypnotic ostinato bass broken by a rest in the middle of each bar, punctuated by a ritornello for two violins. I loved the way the ensemble played the ritornello every time a bit differently, changing the dynamics and character slightly to match the preceeding vocal verse. As for the singing: it was really and truly brilliant. This piece must suit Jaroussky’s voice very well: he kept his usual sweet tone but sung with so much power and dramatic force, so expressively and with so much emotion, that I was completely carried away by this “whirlwind”. Some phrases and colours are still lingering in my ears. After this great monologue came a few closing lines, from the narrator again: “when the king heard this words and saw the face of the dead (be careful what you wish for!), he trembled with fear and shed tears, and Paris and the Seine trembled too” — here the piece ends with a few bars of mighty storm in the continuo. This in our case led directly into an equally stormy Battaglia by Marco Uccellini, with cornets and drums and all what you need for depicting war and fighting in music. Good choice.

We clearly needed some rest here, and got it in the form of Carissimi’s lovely chamber duet, Rimanti in pace. Nothing loud, nothing showy, just smooth, parallel melodic lines caressing the ear and soul of the listener. A touch of melancholy, because the lovers are parting, but not too much — it’s only for the night. A lot of tenderness. The two so different voices melting into each other in perfect harmony.

Essen 2012-06-10

PJ after the concert, giving autographs and being adorable

The remaining three vocal pieces were served like a sandwich: another grave lamento between two more playful items, both based on the same ciacconna bass. The Ferrari song, Amanti io vi so dire is something of an old aquaintance — it’s been recorded on Philippe’s very first CD, and he sang a shortened version of it in the 2009 Arte documentary, Voix haute. I liked it then and I liked it now. I like the piece itself with all those mocking coloraturas and sudden surprises of long notes with flats, and I like the way he sings it, light but colourful, in a neck-breaking tempo, and apparently having a lot of fun. Pelenope’s lament, sung by Lemieux, was again a dramatic highlight, she took our breath away with her “Torna, deh torna Ulisse!” — And then, the last duet of the official program — a perfect finale piece, funny and full of joy — followed by two encores, both by Monteverdi,  and it was over. Too soon.

*  *  *

I didn’t have to spend too much time deciding what music to link here. It must be the Strozzi lamento. We don’t yet have a recording with Philippe, I just hope we will one day — until that, Roberta Invernizzi is not bad either. 🙂

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677): Sul Rodano severo
Roberta Invernizzi, soprano, Bizzarrie Armoniche, dir./cello: Elena Russo

Sul Rodano severo
giace tronco infelice
di Francia il gran scudiero,
e s’al corpo non lice
tornar di ossequio pieno
all’amato Parigi,
con la fredd’ombra almeno
il dolente garzon segue Luigi.

Enrico il bel, quasi annebbiato sole,
delle guance vezzose
cangiò le rose in pallide viole
e di funeste brine
macchiò l’oro del crine.
Lividi gl’occhi son, la bocca langue,
e sul latte del sen diluvia il sangue.

 “Oh Dio, per qual cagione”
par che l’ombra gli dica
“sei frettoloso andato
a dichiarar un perfido, un fellone,
quel servo a te sì grato,
mentre, franzese Augusto,
di meritar procuri
il titolo di giusto?
Tu, se ‘l mio fallo di gastigo è degno,
ohimè, ch’insieme insieme
dell’ invidia che freme
vittima mi sacrifichi allo sdegno.

Non mi chiamo innocente:
purtroppo errai, purtroppo
ho me stesso tradito
a creder all’invito
di fortuna ridente.
Non mi chiamo innocente:
grand’aura di favori
rea la memoria fece
di così stolti errori,
un nembo dell’obblio
fu la cagion del precipizio mio.

Ma che dic’io? Tu, Sire – ah, chi nol vede?
tu sol, credendo troppo alla mia fede,
m’hai fatto in regia corte
bersaglio dell’invidia e reo di morte.

Mentre al devoto collo
tu mi stendevi quel cortese braccio,
allor mi davi il crollo,
allor tu m’apprestavi il ferro e ‘l laccio.
Quando meco godevi
di trastullarti in solazzevol gioco,
allor l’esca accendevi
di mine cortigiane al chiuso foco.
Quella palla volante
che percoteva il tuo col braccio mio
dovea pur dirmi, oh Dio,
mia fortuna incostante.
Quando meco gioivi
di seguir cervo fuggitivo, allora
l’animal innocente
dai cani lacerato
figurava il mio stato,
esposto ai morsi di accanita gente.

Non condanno il mio re, no, d’altro errore
che di soverchio amore.

Di cinque macche illustri
notato era il mio nome,
ma degli emoli miei l’insidie industri
hanno di traditrice alla mia testa
data la marca sesta.
Ha l’invidia voluto
che, se colpevol sono,
escluso dal perdono
estinto ancora immantinente io cada;
col mio sangue ha saputo
de’ suoi trionfi imporporar la strada.
Nella grazia del mio re
mentre in su troppo men vo,
di venir dietro al mio pie’
la fortuna si stancò,
Onde ho provato, ahi lasso,
come dal tutto al niente è un breve passo.” 

Luigi, a queste note
di voce che perdon supplice chiede,
timoroso si scuote
e del morto garzon la faccia vede.
Mentre il re col suo pianto
delle sue frette il pentimento accenna
tremò Parigi e torbidossi Senna.

*  *  *

English translation by Pamela Dellal, from

By the harsh Rhone
lies the unhappy body
of the great Knight of France;
And, though his body is not permitted
to return to his beloved Paris
for full burial honors,
with only his cold shade
the sad youth follows Louis.
Henry the Fair (like an overcast sun);
the rose of his charming cheeks
are changed to pallid violets
and the gold of his hair
is stained with fatal frost;
his eyes are livid, his mouth flaccid,
and upon his milky breast his blood flows .

“Oh God, for what reason”
(it seems that the ghost speaks)
“were you so hasty
to pronounce as a disloyal criminal
that servant so pleasing to you?
While yet, Emperor of France,
you attempt to earn
the title of Just.
Even if my failing was worthy of punishment,
alas, together with raging Envy,
you sacrifice me as a victim to anger.
“I do not call myself innocent;
too much I erred,
too much I betrayed myself,
believing the enticements
of smiling fortune.
I do not call myself innocent.
A great air of favor
is made hateful by the memory
of such foolish errors.
A fog of oblivion
was the cause of my downfall.
“But what am I saying? You, Sire, ah, who couldn’t see it?
You alone, believing too much in my loyalty,
made me in your Royal court
a target for envy and deserving of death.
“While about my devoted neck
you stretched your gracious arm,
you also offered ruin;
you drew near to me the sword and the trap.
When you diverted yourself,
enjoying pleasant games with me,
you also ignited the fuse
of the courtiers’ mines to hidden flame.
That flying ball,
struck by your arm and mine,
ought to have told, oh God,
of my inconstant fortune.

‘When you delighted
in hunting the fleeing deer with me,
the innocent animal
torn by dogs
prefigured my state,
exposed to the bites of hound-like people.
I do not condemn my King of any other fault
than of excessive Love.
“With five illustrious honors
my name was distinguished;
but of my titles industrious deceit
bestowed the sixth upon my head
– that of traitor.
Envy wished that,
if found guilty,
I be excluded from pardon,
and that I fall instantly dead.
She knew how to use my blood
to make the streets purple with her triumphs.
“While I ventured too high
in the favor of my King,
fortune behind my feet
grew weary of following.
Whence I have learned, alas,
how from everything to nothing is a tiny step.”

Louis, at these words
that, pleading, ask for pardon,
fearfully trembles,
and gazes on the face of the dead youth;
while the King, with his tears,
shows his regret for his haste.
Paris trembles and the Seine grows troubled.

*  *  *


Francesco Cavalli
Sinfonia from L’Orione

Antonio Sartorio
“Cara e amabile catena” — Duet of Euridice and Orfeo from Orfeo

Francesco Cavalli
Scene of Linfea and Satirino from La Calisto
Lamento of Ecuba from La Didone

Giovanni Pandolfi
Sonata per violino, op. 4. Nr. 3 “La monella romanesca”

Francesco Cavalli
“Uscitemi dal cor lagrime amare” — Lamento of Idraspe from Erismena

Francesca Caccini
Canzonetta “Qui desia di saper che cosa è amore”

Claudio Monteverdi
Scene of Valletto and Damigella from L’Incoronazione di Poppea

*  *  *

Giacomo Carissimi
“Vaghi rai” — Duetto da camera

Barbara Strozzi
Lamento “Sul rodano severo”

Marco Uccellini
Sinfonia “La Gran Battaglia”

Giacomo Carissimi
“Rimanti in pace” — Duetto da camera

Giovanni Legrenzi
Sonata a tre “La spilimberga”

Benedetto Ferrari
“Amanti, io vi so dire”

Claudio Monteverdi
“Di misera Regina” — Lamento of Penelope from Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

Giovanni Felice Sances
“Lagrimosa beltà” — Cantata à due sopra la ciacconna


Claudio Monteverdi
“Pur ti miro” from L’incoronazione di Poppea
“Lidia spina del mio core” from Scherzi musicali

23 hozzászólás leave one →
  1. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. június 21. csütörtök 00:02

    Dear Juli,
    Thank you so much for this review. I feel deprived of good live concerts here in Australia, but reading such a text is almost like being there myself. It seems that intellegent programming and a perfect rapport between the singers (and the players) were the keys to success of this concert. I hope that one of the concerts of this series will be broadcast and will add to your wonderful collection of YouTube clips. In the meanwhile, I would love to read your thoughts about the Salzburg production of “Cesare”.
    By the way, your English is truly remarkable! I live in an English-speaking country for nearly twenty years (my first language is Russian), and I write science papers all the time, but I can only dream of such style.
    Thank you again and best wishes.

  2. 2012. június 21. csütörtök 19:58

    Dear Aviva,
    I’m so glad that you liked my review, thank you for your words of appreciation! Good news that the concert on 24th in Baden-Baden will be recorded, but we don’t yet know anything about where and when it will be broadcast. If I have more information, I will post it here, and maybe you’ll be able to listen to it.
    Kind regards,

  3. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. június 22. péntek 02:16

    Thank you, Juli, I am looking forward to more information.

  4. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. augusztus 25. szombat 02:23

    Dear Juli,
    Still no sign of a Mezzo broadcast, apparently, but I found something else: “Niobe” will be broadcast on Radio Classical, New England, on September 2 at 7 pm, USA Eastern time
    It seems that they have live Internet streaming:
    Not a convenient time for Europeans, but perhaps you will be able to record it (I would, but don’t know how to do it).
    Best wishes,

  5. 2012. augusztus 25. szombat 08:17

    Thank you very much, great news! I will try to record, no matter the inconvenience of time, and also will spread the word around, so others can do it too, some of us has to be successful! 🙂 Thank you again!

  6. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. augusztus 25. szombat 10:14

    Dear Juli, good luck for the recording, and hope to see the best arias on your YouTube channel!

  7. 2012. október 15. hétfő 22:22

    At last, here is the schedule for the Mezzo broadcast:

  8. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. október 16. kedd 00:21

    Dear Juli, I am glad to know that a broadcast has been scheduled. I hope that some brave person will put it on YouTube (same for “Artaserse”). Otherwise, Mezzo is out of my reach. Fortunately, I was able to hear the Girona concert again on Catalan Radio.
    Best regards,

  9. Aviva Levina permalink
    2012. november 23. péntek 09:13

    Dear Juli, please pass my immense thanks to a certain Nonmichiamo Innocente.

  10. 2013. január 15. kedd 09:58

    Have you seen this, Aviva?

  11. Aviva Levina permalink
    2013. január 15. kedd 23:22

    Dear Juli, thank you for remembering me. Certainly, I could not miss this, since I am a subscriber to Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABO). So I have my tickets already (the concerts are nearly sold out by now). Normally, all the ABO programs are broadcast by the Australian classical channel, ABC Classic FM. I will keep an eye on it and let you know when they schedule the broadcast.
    Best wishes, Aviva.

  12. Aviva Levina permalink
    2013. március 7. csütörtök 07:13

    Dear Juli, just to let you know that the broadcast has been scheduled for March 23: I am afraid that it won’t be available afterwards (unlike some other programs from ABC Classic FM), so please try to catch it directly. Sorry, I won’t be able to help you with this, since I don’t have a proper computer in personal use.
    Good luck for the recording and best wishes from Aviva.

  13. 2013. március 7. csütörtök 19:26

    Dear Aviva, thank you very much!!!

  14. Aviva Levina permalink
    2013. március 22. péntek 23:46

    Dear Juli, I hope very much that the recording will go well tonight. I’ve attended two concerts in Sydney, on March 15th and 22nd, and wanted to share my impressions with you. Needless to say, this was a great experience, a rare chance to hear a world class performance in Australia (unfortunately I’ve missed Philippe’s two previous visits). It is incredible how hard Philippe works and how much he respects his public. He could do just one sold-out celebrity concert, like Bryn Terfel who gives one song recital (with piano) in the huge Concert Hall of the Opera House. Instead, he does eight(!) concerts in medium-sized halls, and sings ten very demanding arias in each. Philippe looks as young and handsome as ever (yesterday, I was sitting in the very first row and looking straight into his mouth). His recent photos gave an impression that he started to look older after his 35th birthday, but this was not the case. Clearly, the highlight of the evening was the full version of Alto Giove, which was sublime, particularly the da capo section. I didn’t like so much the bravura arias, which I thought were sung too fast and lacked power. However, the public preferred them to the slow ones, so this must be my problem. I was mildly annoyed by Paul Dyer for including Handel’s Water Music and Locatelli’s Violin Concerto, which were predictable hits with the public, but out of style with Philippe’s program. Another thing was that Paul didn’t bother to prepare for his introductory speeches. Yesterday, he said that Porpora was the teacher of Carestini, and that Philippe is currently 32 years old! But this did not spoil my pleasure too much.
    Best wishes, Aviva.

  15. 2013. május 6. hétfő 16:32

    Dear Aviva,
    Sorry for answering so late, I admit having neglected my blog lately. I really enjoyed reading your account of the concert, thank you for sharing it! Maybe what Mr. Dyer was really thinking was “last time he was here he was 32, and he doesn’t look any older now”. 🙂
    I have a recording, but it’s unfortunately not very good quality, the original broadcast was pretty bad. If you would like it, I will share it with you in private, I don’t want to post a public link here as it already earned me a copyright strike on YT…
    I must say though that I think the orchestra played much better in their three year ago concert.
    Best regards,

  16. Aviva Levina permalink
    2013. május 7. kedd 00:39

    Dear Juli,
    Glad to hear from you, I was worried that your silence means that you disliked my account. I also had a feeling that there was no full rapport between Philippe and the orchestra, particularly at the first concert, I am not sure what the reason was. I agree that the broadcast was not particularly successful, so I’d better keep my memories of the live performances. The reason why ABC Classic FM was so worried about not letting it on YouTube was that it contained some arias that are about to be released on CD. It is a pity that you have neglected your blog, but hopefully you will feel like resuming it soon!
    Best wishes, Aviva.

  17. 2013. május 7. kedd 23:59

    Oh yes, the “top secret” arias! I’m really curious about that CD.

  18. 2013. június 17. hétfő 17:42

    Here is the complete TV broadcast from Baden-Baden:


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